So, full disclosure, I’m a Microsoft guy.  I make far more money immersing myself into Windows development than I would in developing for any other platform.  There’s good reason for this, but that’s a topic for a different article.

What are they?

Windows 10 is a general purpose operating system.  You can do just about anything with it.  Want to host a personal website?  Done.  Want to develop for your hobbies?  Done.  Want to do serious work?  Done.  Want to play games?  Done.  Windows 10 is the best iteration of Windows to date and the breadth and depth of usages for Windows 10 is beyond compare.

Android-x86 is an end-user operating system.  You can do many things with it, mostly surrounding social interaction, casual gaming, and light business applications.  It’s also a pretty good platform for general web activities as Chrome on Android is just as good as Chrome on Windows.  What it’s not is a serious OS for developing software or hosting your favorite game server.

If they are so different, why the comparison?

I am limiting this comparison to end-user scenarios: Browsing, casual gaming, and social interaction.  I’m also ignoring hardware specifically designed for Android or Windows 10.  Instead, I’m using a neutral platform, a Dell Inspiron laptop.

All the formalities aside, let’s get started.

Browsing

Chrome is available for both operating systems.  The experience with Chrome is nearly identical.  As far as performance, Chrome on Android seems faster than it does on Windows.  This is probably because Chrome does all kinds of funky things on Windows to try to be an operating system inside an operating system.  On Android everything is already an OS inside an OS, so Chrome is a lot lighter than it is on Windows.  An Universal Windows App version of Chrome would be way better than the current desktop version and would probably trounce Chrome on Android in performance as UWP apps are typically written in C++ or CSharp, both of which are light-years ahead of Java in performance.

Social Interaction

Now, I’m only going to compare apps, not websites.  Some apps are not available on Windows 10 because their Website performance is so good (generally because the hardware for Windows 10 is 10x faster than Android products).  This is a mistake from my perspective, because websites are much harder to develop (if you want to know why, leave a comment and I’ll explain).

The elephant in the room is the respective Facebook apps.  Here, there’s no comparison.  The Android Facebook app is quite possibly the best app on Android, period.  It’s the most fully featured, usable and well thought out app anywhere.

In comparison, the Facebook UWP app absolutely sucks.  It’s tempermental, lacks features and sometimes won’t do simple things like showing the notifications.  I don’t know if this is intentional, but it sucks.

Facebook has published some interesting apps for managing your Facebook pages and advertising campaigns, but they are only available on Android (maybe iOS, but who cares?).

Next is Twitter.  Unlike Facebook, Twitter seems to keep their Android and UWP apps pretty much synced up in both functionality and performance.  I suspect they are using a common C++ code base which means it’s a lot easier for them to keep things in sync.  It’s also nowhere near as fat as the Facebook app on either platform, but it doesn’t need to be as it’s a much simpler set of functionality.

The final app I’ll compare is IRC Cloud.  Wait, I cannot.  IRC Cloud doesn’t have a UWP app.  Nevermind.  This is another case where the Website is seen as the primary channel for usage and thus a stand-alone USP app is ignored.

Gaming

When it comes to gaming, Windows 10 absolutely trounces Android.  There’s simply no comparison.  Even limiting yourself to UWP games, they are typically better, more fully featured, and perform better than any equivalent Android app.  Just go to the Windows store.  The highest rated apps are all games, and for good reason.

From a social perspective, the XBOX apps on Windows and Android echo the gaming experience overall.  The XBOX app built into Windows 10 is phenomenal.  Every little bit of social interaction available on XBOX is here.  You can even broadcast your Windows 10 gaming sessions to your channel, just like you can on the XBOX One.  The XBOX One app for Android is essentially a remote control with a few simple features that don’t do much.

Even when Android and Windows both have the same game, the Windows version is typically better.  Remember that 10x more powerful hardware thing?  That makes a big difference for publishers when deciding what type of games and how to code them.  Many, many, many games on Android are built with Unity, and if you build a game with Unity, it’s a no brainer to target UWP, XBOX One, and Android in one fell swoop.  Android x86 narrows the gap a bit, but Windows 10’s graphics drivers are so good, that you still get a better gaming experience on Windows 10.

Conclusion

It’s a tie.  You really have to decide what your main usage for a computer is to decide which way to go.  If browsing the web and reading email is your thing, then you can’t go wrong with either Android or Windows 10.  If you want native apps for social media, then Android trounces Windows 10, unless you limit your social media experience to Twitter, at which point it’s a tie.  Finally, Windows 10 owns gaming.  There’s really nothing else to say about that.

Of course, there’s some philosophical differences when choosing between Windows 10 and Android x86.  If you’re a Microsoft Guy, you cannot go wrong with Windows 10.  There’s nothing about Android apps that either isn’t matched in a UWP app, or a website.  If you have needs beyond those covered here, you’re probably going to be better off with Windows 10.

If you are an Open-Source, or anti-Microsoft Guy, then Android-x86 is for you.  You’ll be more than satisfied with the apps available through the Google Play Store, and most really benefit from the faster hardware.  If you’re a power user in this category you’ll probably dual boot Android and a more traditional GNU/Linux system such as an Ubuntu variant.

Android-x86 is what Chromebook should have been.

So, my love-hate relationship with Android is turning to pure love on this laptop.  The hate part is on phones and tablets where typing is an excercise in absolute frustration.  But when you have a REAL keyboard, Android shines.

As far as GNU/Linux distros go, Android actually has high-quality apps.  The same cannot be said for traditional GNU/Linux distros.  The one type of app that’s sorely missing from Android is a serious IDE.  There are some toy IDEs available in Play Store, but they don’t even come close to the usefulness of Visual Studio or Eclipse.

I’ve run a bunch of apps and so far they seem to work fine:

  • Play Store
  • Facebook
  • Google
  • Twitter
  • WordPress (I’m typing this in it right now)
  • Chrome
  • Outlook
  • GMail
  • Microsoft RD Client
  • TeamViewer
  • Microsoft Groove (by far the best music subscription service)

As a matter of fact, I haven’t run across an app that won’t run, though I haven’t tried any games (I’m not a big gamer, especially the casual games that many people seem to love on Android).

Now, Kubuntu is also installed on this laptop (I had to, see my previous post about getting Android x86 installed).  I cannot see using it for anything other than an IDE host.  My main system had a hardware failure (the controller on my Intel 910 PCIe IDE died) and until the replacement arrives, I’m stuck without a computer to work on my projects.

Unfortuantely, this laptop is not a touchscreen hybrid or anything; you have to use a mouse to click things.  I’m not sure that’s entirely a bad thing, but when I’m feeling lazy a touch screen would be nice.  I may try to get my hands on an Acer Aspire R7 to install this on.

My favorite part of Android x86 is how good (awesome) text looks.  Fonts are clear, sharp and large.  I think in the desktop world we get so caught up in cramming stuff on the screen that mobile-centric operating systems seem alien because of their much better layout and whitespace usage.  Having to use your thumb on things means lots of space around clickable elements.  This forces the programmer to spend more time refining the user experience and it really pays off.  As I’m getting older (old?) my eyes are going bad.  I use an LG V10 T-Mobile phone, which is pretty big (not phablet big, but close).  Even still, I have to use the next-to-highest font size setting to see it when I wake up in the morning.  I’m so accustomed to Android apps being displayed with large text that I’m using a fairly high font setting on this laptop.

And it rocks.

In another post I’ll compare and contrast Windows 10 versus Android x86.

Thanks for reading!

Wew… I’m glad that’s done.

My main laptop died last week and I replaced it with a desktop to get more bang-for-the-buck.

The desktop is great… I love it. But it’s stuck at my desk. I’ve been used to having a laptop to code on in the living room. Now it’s gone and I’m lost.

The solution is a laptop running TeamViewer. I bought a used Dell Inspiron with Windows 10 on it. Unfortunately, it’s a rather low-end model that’s 6 years old. All I bought it for was TeamViewer. Windows 10 was overkill.

So, I tried a few Live CD’s of various flavors of GNU/Linux. Then I ran across Android-X86. Oh? What’s this?

Android-X86 is a port to standard PC hard of Android. It’s very, very compatible with the Android you know and love on your phone and/or tablet. It even has an ARM emulation layer for running apps built on native code.

Installing Android-x86 should be easy. The ISO has a Live CD as well as an installation profile. Running the Live CD is pointless, you cannot persist any of your settings. Installing to a HD is your only real choice. And this is where it falls on its face.

When you install it using the wizard, you try to configure the machine with all the standard (and recommended) configuration options:

  1. Blow away any existing partitions with the installer’s partition manager.
  2. Create a 100MiB partition for the boot stuff.
  3. Create a partition for everything else using the remaining space.
  4. Tell the installer to use the big partition you just made.
  5. Let the installer load GRUB onto the machine.
  6. Let the installer complete storing files.

Voila!  Right????

Wrong.

First, GRUB never gets set up correctly.  When you reboot the bios finds the GRUB system on the partition table and tries to load it.  Nothing. Ever. Happens.

So, I boot up using GPARTED live CD.  Tell it to find other operating systems.  Nothing.  Edit an existing entry and point it at Android-x86.  Nothing.

I did a LOT of digging in Google and Bing.  Nothing worked.  So I decided to scrap android and go with Kubuntu.  This made my heart hurt.

I installed Kubuntu and after noticing that GRUB installed fine, I decided to search the web and see if I could reuse the same GRUB to launch Android-x86.

Aha!  I found explicit instructions for downloading Android-X86 from an RPM onto Ubuntu.  I got excited!  I followed the instructions and soon Android was on the system.

I reboot, select Android-x86 from GRUB.  It boots!  I’m giddy.  Then, nothing.  I just sits there trying to find the OS.  Turns out Kubuntu mounts to a virtual file system on a big partition on the HD.  Android-X86, expecting a real partition, simply cannot read it.  Never fear!  Partition Management is Here!

I resize the virtual partition, which allowed me to resize the real partition.  I set up a new partition for Android.  I copy over the Android-x86 folder from the RPM install.  I reboot.

It worked!  Hallelujah!

Moral of the Story?  Most GNU/Linux distributions (even Android) simply suck at installation.  Always have.  Will they always?  Ubuntu is one of the few that get it right.  Fortunately Kubuntu saved the day for me and gave me the tools to install Android-x86.  But, you need perseverance, patience and a little luck.